There are fresh calls to ban hymen checks and 'virginity testing' - and rightly so
"See Doc? No problem."
This week, it was reported that a bill had been forward with the intention of banning so-called "hymen checks" in the state of New York.
The practice - which has been largely discredited and denounced by many, many medical professionals, by the way - generally involves a doctor inserting their fingers or a speculum inside a woman's or girl's body to see if the elastic tissue membrane, known as the hymen, is intact.
Otherwise known as the "virginity test," the process is generally carried out for one reason and one reason only: to seemingly "prove" whether a woman has had sex or not.
The news of this potential ban came after rapper and former Axe body spray ambassador T.I. decided to go ahead and admit that not only had he had the "sex talk" with his daughter Deyjah, but that he regularly accompanies her to the doctor "to check her hymen."
You know, to make sure that she hadn't had sex yet. Because that's totally how that works.
“We’ll go and sit down and the doctor will come and talk and you know, the doctor will maintain a high level of professionalism,” T.I. said.
“And he’s like: ‘Well, you know sir, in order for me to share information, and I say: ‘Deyjah they want you to sign this. They want you to sign this. So we can share information.
"Is there anything that you would not want me to know? See Doc? No problem.’”
He goes on, attempting to justify this act: “Look doc, she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bike, she don’t play no sports. Just check the hymen please and give me back my results expeditiously."
Without further comment on T.I.'s unsettling and entirely misdirected tale, here are a non-exhaustive list of ways that a girl's or woman's hymen can be, ahem, broken* that do not involve penetrative vaginal sex:
(*and by "broken" I don't mean actually "broken" - I mean changed in some way, altered, affected by something that might have happened in or outside of the body.)
2. Using tampons
3. Horse riding
4. Riding a bike
5. Digital penetration
7. Just general existence, really
Just as the majority of women's bodies are different, so are the majority of women's hymens.
In fact, despite T.I.'s wildly inappropriate and ludicrous claim, in many cases there may not be any notable physical differences between a woman who has had a load of vaginal sex and a woman who has had none.
And yet unfortunately for us, here in the great and glorious year that is 2019, a lot of people still seem to think that the concept of 'virginity' is a marker of note - something to be pedestaled when a girl is young, and almost glorified when she is older.
The idea of the hymen - and of it "breaking", "tearing," or disappearing entirely rabbit-in-hat-style when a woman has sex for the first time - falls into the same category, ultimately becoming a warped symbol of purity for some and a marker of fear for others.
Growing up in Ireland at the cruel age of 18 or so, I was presented with many differing, wildly contradictory accounts of what having sex for the first time was supposed to feel like.
For some, their first time was good. For others, it was painful. For many of us, it still is - and lo and behold, that fact has very little to do with the physical state of the elastic membrane situated inside of our vaginas.
It took a substantial amount of time before I realised that people weren't simply misremembering their first sexual experience, but that each experience was entirely different and no less valid than the one that had come before it, irrespective of whether someone had "lost their virginity" or not.
As this rather informative and handy TEDTalk from 2017 so expertly puts it, the concept of virginity, in itself, is a fraud.
Health professionals Nina Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl considered the idea of the hymen and decided to bust it themselves (the myth around it, that is), using just a hoola-hoop, some clingfilm, and cold hard facts.
They explained that just as every woman's body is different, so is every woman's experience of penetration.
Pointing to a study that examined the vaginas of 36 young pregnant women, they explained that only two of the women's hymens showed clear signs of penetration.
Which would then mean that if the hymen myth is to be adhered to, the other 34 women were technically still "virgins."
Except they weren't... because they were pregnant.
Thankfully, T.I.'s daughter has gone and ahead and unfollowed her dad on Instagram, seemingly suggesting that she does not agree with his intrusive and incessant need to know what's going on inside of her body.
And although T.I.'s wife has added her two cents in the form of a few eye rolls emojis, the general consensus around the whole debacle would appear to suggest that most people are on the same "what the fuck, T.I.?" page.
And hey, at least that's something, right?